Literary Prizes·CBC Literary Prizes

Carry by Sarah Kabamba

Sarah Kabamba has made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Carry.

2017 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist

Sarah Kabamba is a graduate student at Carleton University and is working on her first collection of poetry. (Rachel Kabamba)

Sarah Kabamba made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Carry.

She will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will have her story published on CBC Books.

Alessandra Naccarato wins the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize for Postcards for my Sister.

If you're interested in the CBC Literary Prizes, the CBC Nonfiction Prize opens on Jan. 1, 2018.

You can read Carry by Sarah Kabamba below.


my parents are the best
​kind of poetry, which is to say
​they are profound without meaning to be
​intricate in their simplicity

my father, in the living room
​surrounded by family
​eats freshly cooked cassava and peanuts
​corn on the cob burnt with charcoal
​dark bottles of malt sweat on the table
​he looks at my mother, laughs, says
​we are a sacrificed generation
​we did what we had to
​so now our children don't have to
​the women and men laugh, nod, say, ndiyo, ndiyo, ndiyo​

in the kitchen i drown
​my hands in the sink
​the women bring their laughter
​into the room, flood me
​with swahili, brightly colored cloths,
spices, warm bodies
​i close my eyes, this is how
​i want to be carried away

they pull pots and pans from shelves
​fill plates with sliced plantains and yams
​gut fish with bare hands, blood is too familiar
with their skin, yet they still sing, still dance, still
​let their bodies sway, their voices
​weave in and out, oil sizzles, sauce bubbles
​scents mix, spices color the air
​i open my eyes, this is how
​i want to be carried away

they laugh at my quietness
​the heat in the kitchen surrounds
​us, makes my mother's cheeks glisten
​as she tells the story of how i did not cry
​for an hour after i was born, she holds so much
​stories, some she tells often, some things
​we rarely speak of, she says to me
​if you let it, grief will kill parts of you
​knowing her story all i can say is
​mama, teach me the language of survival
​she says, sometimes it sounds too much like sadness,
sister languages               let me teach you joy

my parents give me poetry without knowing
​i have been collecting their words, storing them
​in my bones, i will never lose them

Read the other finalists:

About Sarah Kabamba:

Sarah Kabamba loves storytelling in all its forms, and believes it is one of the most powerful tools given to artists. Her work has been published in Carleton Now, Room Magazine, In/Words Magazine & Press and The New Quarterly. She currently resides in Ottawa, where she is completing her Masters degree at Carleton University and working on a collection of poetry.